Who the Hell Hunts With a Machine Gun Anyway?

While America is reeling in shock over the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and mourning those lost in a volley of peacetime machine gun fire, the papers are rehashing the same questions posed whenever a mass killing makes the news: “Why did this happen?” and “How can we prevent this kind of thing in the future?”

Predictably, politicians from both sides of the fence are weighing in on gun control or the culpability shared by violent Hollywood movies (and even cartoons like Family Guy and American Dad—both of which were preempted by Fox this week because of the tragedy). What we’re not hearing in the mainstream media is any mention of the leading role that sport hunting plays in promoting guns and perpetuating violence.

The latest school shooter, Adam Lanza, and the D.C. Beltway snipers, John Mohammad and John Malvo, all used a Bushmaster .223 hunting/assault rifle to carry out their killings. It was also the weapon used in the Colorado theater shooting, and in a host of other homicidal meltdowns.

The .223 semi-automatic can fire 6 rounds per second (okay, if you want to split hairs, it’s not technically considered a machine gun because you have to hit the hair-trigger with each shot), but what makes it so deadly is the way the bullet reacts on impact: It’s designed to bounce around inside the body once it makes contact with bone.

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Why is such a lethal assault rifle legal for non-military civilians to own? According to the manufacturer, they are intended to be used for hunting animals. As the NRA well knows, hunting has been used to justify the private ownership of some of the most destructive weapons ever invented.

But who the Hell really hunts with a machine gun anyway? Unfortunately, some folks do. One thrill-killer describes his sport this way: “Prairie dog hunting is a blast, on both private and public lands. I like to start by clearing everything within 50 yards with an AR-15, then switch to my .223 Remington for anything out to about 150 and finally trade up to the bull barrel .22-250 for the longer shots.”

And those who mass murder coyotes seem to feel entitled to the deadliest of armaments as well. A recent “contest hunt” offered up a free shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic rifles to whoever murdered the most canines. The terms of the competition were simple: hunters in New Mexico had two days to shoot and kill as many coyotes as they could; the winner got their choice of a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. (The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military’s M16 that has been in production since Vietnam.) “Nothing’s gonna stop me,” said Mark Chavez, the hunt’s sponsor, and the owner of Gunhawk Firearms “This is my right to hunt and we’re not breaking any laws.”

Bushmaster describes their .223 as a “Varmint Rifle.” Oh really? That shines new light on what some of these politicians really mean when they say they only hunt “varmints.” I’ve never been an invited guest at George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford Texas; therefore I can only guess that this is the type of weapon the self-proclaimed “varmint” hunter uses when he goes up against a family of scary ground squirrels, marmots or a town of talkative prairie dogs.

Larger caliber Bushmaster models are categorized as “Predator Rifles.”

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Ironically, it was Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who taught young Adam how to shoot. She was an avid gun enthusiast who legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock (both handguns commonly used by police) and a military-style Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine, according to law enforcement officials. As it turns out, it was one of her guns that her son turned on her before using them in his attack on the students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary…

See also, “Honor Thy Father and Mother, Except When They Misbehave.”

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Guns, Guns and More Guns

We Americans sure love our guns. Big ones, small ones, single shot or semi-automatic, antiques or shiny new ones. This year’s Black Friday gun sales set an all-time record (The FBI said it received 154,873 calls for background checks for new gun purchases on Nov. 23, a marked increase over the agency’s previous record number of calls: 129,166 last year. The bureau was so overwhelmed with calls that outages occurred at some centers). Americans’ infatuation with guns takes a back seat only to that which they have for cars; and as you would expect, the homicidal havoc wreaked by firearms is second only to the body count chalked up to automobile accidents.

With so many avid gun hoarders out there, the rest of us would have to amass a small arsenal to try to keep up with the Joneses. It seems U.S. gun owners so outnumber those who conscientiously object to personal weapon stockpiles that non-gun owners are about as few and far between as vegans at an NRA potluck.

But while keeping a pistol or shotgun in the home to dissuade intruders is innocuous enough, this excerpt from my book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport, is a good example of the obsession some folks have with guns:

People in “cattle country” often entertain themselves by using the beleaguered prairie dogs as living targets, taking all the more sick pleasure in shooting an attentive mother as she pops up from her burrow to see if it’s safe for her youngsters to come out. Hunters glibly assign the term “double tap” for a shot that kills both the mother and her adoring baby. “Tap” is a particularly perverse moniker considering that the hollow point bullets they sometimes use cause their victims to literally explode on impact—a sight that must really get the shooter’s blood up. Ladies beware: there’s a demonstrated link between cruelty to animals and domestic abuse, assault and other crimes on a killer’s violence continuum [including, school-shootings and the mass murder of Christmas shoppers at the mall].

One thrill-killer describes his sport this way: “Prairie dog hunting is a blast, on both private and public lands. I like to start by clearing everything within 50 yards with an AR-15, then switch to my .223 Remington for anything out to about 150 and finally trade up to the bull barrel .22-250 for the longer shots.” The only thing stopping a sportsman with this much bloodlust is the melting point of his gun barrel…

Coincidentally (or not), an AR-15 was also the weapon of choice of Jacob Tyler Roberts, the 22 year old Portland mall gunman, and a .223 was the assault weapon used by the Connecticut school shooter, 20 year old Adam Lanza. The .223 was also the semi-automatic rifle used by the D.C. Beltway snipers, John Allen Mohammed and John Lee Malvo. While there’s truth to the saying “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” the fact is, those who kill the most are the people who’re the most fixated on their guns, i.e: hunters. The Columbine mass-murderers, the serial killer known as Zodiak, and untold others practiced on killing animals before graduating to people. Chances are good that when we learn the backstory of the mall shooter and the Connecticut kid-killer, we’ll find that they were quite the little nimrods as well.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson